Managing Repetitive Behaviours

Managing Repetitive Behaviours: A clinical and cost effectiveness trial of a parent group intervention to manage restricted and repetitive behaviours in young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRB) are a core feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and may include arm or hand-flapping, spinning or twirling, repetitive activities involving the senses (such as repeatedly feeling a particular texture or listening to the same song), repeating favourite phrases (even if they do not match the context) or insisting on a daily routine like having exactly the same snacks for lunch and not accepting change. While RRB can help children with autism manage and express their feelings, some RRB cause distress for the child and their family, interfere with learning and make it more difficult to interact with others. Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently identify the presence of challenging restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRB) as the most difficult aspect of their child’s ASD to manage. Currently there is no parent group-based intervention targeting RRB for young children with ASD (between 3 and 8 years old) as most ASD parent groups focus on social communication skills. We have developed, with parents and professionals, a new parent-based group intervention, called Managing Repetitive Behaviours (MRB) that focuses on identification, understanding and management of challenging RRB in young children with ASD.  

The intervention involves parents attending eight weekly group sessions with approximately seven other parents. Each group session will last two hours.  Parent will be allocated to either MRB parent group or Learning About Autism group run by the National Autistic Society. Having two different groups will allow us to find out whether MRB (new intervention with strategies specific to RRB) or Learning About Autism group (established approach with more general strategies) is more effective. 

The study is run across three NHS Foundation Trusts:  Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (Newcastle upon Tyne area); Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (Durham area) and Edinburgh & Lothian Health Foundation (Edinburgh area).

This study is funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme (ref 16/111/95). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Who is involved in this study?

The Chief Investigator for this study is Dr Victoria Grahame.

Victoria Grahame

  • Consultant Clinical Psychologist; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

The Research Lead in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust for this study is Dr Jacqui Rodgers.

Jacqui Rodgers

The Clinical Lead in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust for this study is Dr Emma Honey.

Emma Honey

  • Senior Clinical Psychologist; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Also involved in the project are:

Ann Le Couteur

  • Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; Newcastle University
  • Honorary Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

 Magdalena Glod

Linda Dixon

  • Senior MRB intervention trainer; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

More information        


Call: 0191 282 1327 

Other research

Managing Repetitive Behaviours (MRB) sits within the 'Clinical service development' and the 'Effects and acceptability of interventions' research themes.

If you are looking for research linked to ASD, Mental Health or Outcome Measurement, please view the relevant conditions and topics page.